Snapshot of Achievements of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC)
Snapshot of Achievements of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC)
in the Last 18 Years (2002-2020)
AIHRC, as a national human rights body, launched its work on June 6, 2002, under the Bonn Agreement and President’s Decree. The Commission enjoys a strong legal foundation as it is enshrined in Article 58 of the Afghan Constitution. The Commission is recognized in the Constitution. It acts independently and impartially.
Since establishment, AIHRC has been working as key national human rights institution to defend and protect the rights and freedom of the citizens in Afghanistan. In order to monitor, protect and promote human rights, the Commission has a strategic plan and action plan and thematic and operational units to implent them. The Commission has offices in 14 provinces and monitors and protects human rights across the country. We know that many citizens may not be familiar with all aspects of AIHRC’s work and many have specific questions about the commission’s mandate and activities. AIHRC strives to open the door to an open dialog with the citizens of the country. We seek to create opportunities for every citizen to share their question, concerns and suggestions explicitly and without constraint with the Commission. Therefore, on 18th anniversary of AIHRC’s establishment, here is a summary of some of our major and important activities and achievements over the last 18 years. This report does not aim to provide a comprehensive overview, but rather a snapshot. We will also continue to publicize information about specific areas of work in the weeks and months to come. We call upon the citizens of the country to raise any questions they may have and we will strive to answer all your questions, to illustrate our commitment to transparency and accountability.
1. Gaining and Retaining International Credibility and Membership in Regional and International Organisations
AIHRC has obtained the "A" status based on the assessment of the Global Alliance for National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI). Institutions with “A” Status have the right to vote in regional and international human rights forums, participate in the UN Human Rights Council, and submit documents to that council.
AIHRC is currently a member of the Asia-Pacific Forum and a member of the Global Alliance for National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI).
2. Human Rights Education
Since 2002, the Commission has raised awareness about human rights among 727,956 people from different backgrounds, different institutions and citizens across the country through workshops, trainings and conferences. 35 percent of the beneficiaries have been women. The Commission has also signed joint cooperation agreement with the Ministry of Education to integrate human rights principles into the educational curriculum. AIHRC has also successfully advocated for integrating human rights subject in the curriculum of universities.
3. Human Rights Publications
During this period, more than 5,105,928 copies of human rights monthly magazines, booklets and publications have been distributed. Over the past 18 years, more than 5,290 hours of television programs about human rights and related issues have been broadcasted nationwide. The Commission has also developed a variety of human rights related radio programmes. Preparation and publication of reports and copies of laws and conventions have also been part of the Commission's work. Awareness-raising of human rights through the Commission's publications and training programs have helped people to be familiar with the concept of human rights in the country.
As a result, more than 7,000 people visit the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission annually to register their cases and seek legal support. Since its establishment, the Human Rights Commission has filed thousands of complaints about human rights violations. This is an indication of increase in citizens' awareness of human rights.
4. The Role of the Commission in the Legislative Process
Pursuant to the Paris Principle and paragraph 2 of Article 21 of the Law on the Structure, Duties and Mandate of the AIHRC; one of the duties and functions of the Commission is to monitor the implementation of the Constitution and other applicable laws of the country. The Commission also has the authority to review and advise on drafting, approval, amendment or repeal of laws by the National Assembly and the Government of Afghanistan. The Commission is a permanent member of the Legislative Committee of the Ministry of Justice and a permanent member of the Law and Justice Committee of the Cabinet of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. It monitors the progress of these committees, through active and consistent participation in the structure of such committees, and submits the required proposals, recommendations and ideas to ensure these laws are in compliance with the international human rights standards, and to ensure, the citizens' rights and freedoms are considered while drafting, passing and enacting laws and regulations. For instance, AIHRC advocated for the ban on compulsory female virginity tests and the criminalization of this violation, which has been incorporated into the Criminal Code. In addition, as a result of the Commission's advocacy, the condition of "prior permission" for protests has been removed from the relevant law. Certain human rights violations such as “bachabazi” and “honor killings” have been criminalized following AIHRC’s research and advocacy. The Commission has also played an active role in encouraging the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to sign the Optional Protocols to the Convention Against Torture, the Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and to expedite the general annual periodic reporting. AIHRC has an active role in improving and amending the proposed draft constitution, amending the Shia Personal Status Law, Labor Law, Family Law, Election Law, the National Penal Code, the Law on the Rights and Privileges of Persons with Disabilities, Law on Elimination of Violence against Women, draft Law on the Protection of the Poor, draft law on the prohibition of violence against women, the formulation of National Development Strategy for Afghanistan, the regulation of legal aid, the regulation of shelters for women, and the regulation on prohibition of harassment of women, and the amendment of the law on child custody.
5. Registration, Documentation, Handling and Follow-up of Complaints
In 18 years, 58,319 complaints have been registered with the Commission. 24,791 cases of human rights violations have been filed and followed up in the relevant authorities. 33,528 non-human rights complaints are filed and out of jurisdiction complaints were advised and referred for appropriate assistance.
6. Registration and Addressing Violence Against Women
Over the past 18 years, AIHRC has filed 56,742 complaints of violence against women specifically, in addition to 58,319 complaints lodged by the Monitoring Unit (The Commission has overall registered over 100,000 complaints about human rights violations). These cases have been recorded as physical violence, sexual violence, verbal and psychological violence, economic violence and other forms of violence. AIHRC not only registers cases, but also addresses them within its jurisdiction. The following is a breakdown of the Commission’s follow-up :
Actions taken to resolve the total cases of violence are: mediated (10%), legal assistance provided (42.5%), documented and introduced to judicial institutions (18.4%), Met with government officials to facilitate access to justice for victims of violence (6.6%); support or advocacy (3.9%), introduced the victims to shelters (5.2%), introduced the victims to health centers (0.8%), cases transferred to the Ministry of Women's Affairs and charities (3.4%), also, 9.3% cases were addressed through other methods.
7. Monitoring of Places of Deprivation of Liberty
The Commission monitors the situation of places of deprivation of liberty on a regular basis. Monitoring and investigation findings have been shared and followed up continuously and consistently with the relevant institutions to improve the situation in detention facilities. The Commission's monitoring has focused on improving the situation in the places of deprivation of liberty, for the detainees, and elimination of all forms of torture in these centers. The efforts of the Commission has improved the situation of places of deprivation of liberty. A particular example is the closure of the Tor Jail section of the Bagram Detention Facility. Tor jail was a special section of the Bagram prison where national and international media outlets reported torture. Tor Jail was closed due to the advocacy of the Special Investigation Unit of AIHRC and human rights defenders’ institutions. As a result of AIHRC’s legal intervention, more than 7,816 illegal prisoners have been released from prisons. In the early years of the Commission, the existence of private prisons was a major human right violation. 50 private prisons have been closed with the legal intervention of the commission.
8. Identifying and Investigating Mass Graves
Mass graves are part of the legacy of the war period that have been discovered and recognized in various parts of Afghanistan over the years. The Commission has made a significant contribution to the identification and preservation of mass graves and advocated to protect the identified mass graves in order to carry out a comprehensive investigation to verify the identities of the victims, the perpetrators and their history. During this period, 92 mass graves of war victims have been identified and examined. The Commission's advocacy focused on the preservation and removal of remains from graves by professionals, the identification of families of victims and perpetrators, and the prevention of irresponsible destruction of mass graves.
9. Monitoring the Security Forces
Child Recruitment in Security Forces
AIHRC’s advocacy for banning child recruitment in security forces and providing reports to address the violation, resulted in the amendment of the security forces’ policies by the government of Afghanistan. Findings by AIHRC show that there are no official records of child recruitment in ANDSF anymore; however, the children may still be used by the security forces unofficially.
10. Civilian Casualties
AIHRC established Special Investigation Team (SIT) in 2007 to monitor the implementation of International Humanitarian Law (IHL), also to monitor the situation of conflict-related prisoners. AIHRC was the first official institution to investigate the cases of IHL violations. AIHRC documented serious cases of IHL violations, made independent reports and published them. These reports attracted international community’s and warring parties’ attention to civilian casualties, respecting IHL principles, and humane treatment of war-related prisoners. Following to establishing SIT at the Commission, for the first time in Afghanistan, respecting IHL principles became a national debate. Afterwards, the warring parties, pro-government forces, and the government armed opposition groups were more conscious that they have to respect IHL principles and do no harm to lives and property of civilians. The efforts and recommendations by AIHRC and other national and international organizations on reducing civilian casualties have resulted in the following outcomes:
1. Establishing a department at the National Security Council;
2. Producing specific policies on reducing civilian casualties;
3. Creating a committee and board for better coordination among organizations that are related to civilian casualties;
4. The Taliban have created a commission in their structure for preventing civilian casualties.
In addition to documentation of civilian casualties and advocacy for protecting civilians, AIHRC advocates for the legal prosecution of the perpetrators and compensation for the victims. According to AIHRC’s reports and documents, the governments of USA, Germany, and Afghanistan have paid compensation and officially apologized to the victims of 20 serious cases of IHL violations. The most prominent example is paying compensation to the victims of an airstrike by German forces in Kunduz province. Based on Commission’s request and coordination, the government of Germany got victims’ consent and compensated the damages. Moreover, based on reports by AIHRC, some of the perpetrators have been legally prosecuted; for instance, two members of American forces, one German pilot, and at least 15 members of ANDSF.
11. Child Rights Protection
Children are the most vulnerable groups in Afghanistan. AIHRC is concerned about the human rights situation of children in the country and the alleged abuses against them such as servitude, trafficking, kidnapping and other forms of abuses. Therefore, AIHRC has made efforts to protect children’s rights and raise awareness related to this issue. Here are some accomplishments of AIHRC:
- Preparing shadow reports on the human rights situation of children in the country based on the findings of AIHRC. The reports were presented by AIHRC’s former chairperson, Dr. Sima Samar, in Geneva in 2004.
- Cooperation and monitoring the process of reintegrating 316 deportee children who had been smuggled to Saudi Arabia, Jordan, & Ghana by organized criminal groups. This was a joint project by AIHRC, Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, and UNICEF.
- Advocacy for creating a protection center for the children who live with their imprisoned mothers. It has been three years by now this protection center is active.
- Criminalization of “bacha-bazi” in Afghanistan’s penal code.
- Ongoing investigation of allegations of sexual abuse of children in Logar (2019-present)
- Ongoing work with UNICEF on monitoring borders to prevent child-trafficking.
12. Protecting the Rights of People with Disability
- For the first time in Afghanistan, people with visual disability accessed the right to open bank accounts independently;
- Following to AIHRC’s advocacy for facilitating recruitment of persons with disability at governmental organizations, the Independent Administrative Reform and Civil Service Commission promised that the three percent share would be implemented in the recruitment processes.
13. Research and reports
Throughout the past 18 years, AIHRC has been the main source of reliable information and researches on human rights and human rights violations in the country. The overall research projects carried out by AIHRC can be categorized into three groups: periodic reports, non-periodic research, and national reports.
Among the many reports that AIHRC has completed so far, the following are some examples:
A. Periodic Reports are published annually or biannually. AIHRC has published 135 periodic reports. Here are the examples of AIHRC’s periodic reports:
1. Forty-four reports “Civilian Casualties in Afghanistan”
2. Thirty reports on women’s rights
B. Specific Research Reports. Specific researches are conducted based on necessity or leadership’s decision. At different stages, AIHRC has conducted eleven research projects. Here are the two examples of the research reports by AIHRC:
1. People’s Voice for Justice, 2005
2. Freedom from Hunger and Poverty, 2019
C. National Inquiries
AIHRC has conducted six national Inquiries since 2013. Here are the examples of national Inquires by AIHRC:
- Factors and Causes of Rape and Honor Killing in Afghanistan, 2013;
- Causes and Consequences of Bacha Bazi in Afghanistan, 2014;
Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission is seen as a reliable source for data and information on human rights in Afghanistan for states, human rights institutions and many research and academic organizations. Organizations like UNAMA, European Union, national and international media, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and Afghanistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs have used and still use AIHRC’s reports as a reliable source. A prominent example of it would be the ongoing investigation on war crimes that Australian forces committed in Afghanistan – media reports that contributed to this investigation used AIHRC’s reports as a main reference.